This Week in Ford Racing July 23, 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Terry Cook, driver of the No. 29 Ford F-150, celebrated his third win of the 2002 season at New Hampshire International Speedway on Saturday, and in the process jumped into the...
This Week in Ford Racing
July 23, 2002
NASCAR Craftsman Truck
Terry Cook, driver of the No. 29 Ford F-150, celebrated his third win of the 2002 season at New Hampshire International Speedway on Saturday, and in the process jumped into the thick of the points race after the 12th of 22 races on the schedule. Cook currently sits fifth in the Craftsman Truck Series standings - 102 points out of the lead - the highest he has been since receiving a 100-point penalty following the season-opening event at Daytona international Speedway. This weekend, Cook and the K-Automotive team hope to ride that wave of momentum as they head to at Michigan International Speedway, a short drive from the team's shop in Lake Orion, Mich.
TERRY COOK-29-Power Stroke Diesel Ford F-150
HOW HAS THE TEAM REACTED SINCE WINNING ITS THIRD RACE OF THE SEASON? "The team is on a natural high. It's hard to describe it until you win a race, but it's a momentum builder that you can't describe. It's a feeling that puts everybody on cloud nine. I guess a good run, a good, solid top-five does that, but there's nothing like standing in Victory Lane and getting your picture taken with the trophy and the flags; that's the real deal. It builds momentum within the team, where everybody is on a natural high. Everybody believes in themselves and they realize that we can do great pit stops, and the crew chief knows that he can make the right call, and the driver feels he has the ability to race up front each and every week. It just builds momentum through everybody on the team to excel to the next level and to produce and perform like that every week. It's a good feeling to have."
THIS WAS YOUR THIRD WIN OF THE 2002 SEASON IN 12 STARTS. DRIVERS SOMETIMES SAY THAT IT GETS EASIER TO GET TO VICTORY LANE AFTER THE FIRST WIN. DID YOU FIND THIS TO BE THE CASE? "I think so, to a degree. It's been told to me over the years that there are people that know how to win races and there are people who know how to run up front. And it's a big difference between crossing the threshold of just running up front and actually getting to Victory Lane because there's one coveted spot that 36 drivers and teams are going for. When you run in the top five, you're in a group with five other people, but when you're in Victory Lane, you're in a group of one. And, it's hard to be able to get to Victory Lane. Once you get to Victory Lane, it makes it a little bit easier the next time. For me, it was a situation that when I finally got hooked up with Bob and Ron Keselowski, I knew the victory was in sight. I thought that last year we were knocking on the door several times and I thought that we were going to close the deal a couple of times last year, but we were just unable to do it. We knew it coming into this year, and it gave us the confidence and momentum to keep trying, and, fortunately, we got one early in the season."
YOU ENDED AN 88-RACE WINLESS STREAK WITH YOUR FIRST WIN OF THE SEASON AT GATEWAY INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY, A STREAK THAT SPANNED NEARLY FOUR SEASONS. "It was a situation where the team I was with before, we probably struck gold early in my career there with that program. The program, I don't want to say that we weren't ready to win when we won way back in 1998 because we were the best truck that day, but we were probably a team that really wasn't ready to win yet. Typically, you post top-10s and then top-fives, and you do that for a while and then you win. That team there, I think we had one top-10 before we had that win. We went to Victory Lane at Flemington and it was kind of an upset. We beat Ron Hornaday, we beat everybody that day, and I don't want to say that we dominated the race, but we definitely had the fastest truck and won. But again, we weren't really prepared and it showed. We went a couple of more years with that program and struggled to even run in the top 10. It was a situation of getting with Bob and Ron Keselowski, a team that was consistently getting top-fives and top-10s, and it was just a matter of getting the final piece in the puzzle. It was kind of a monkey off my back, knowing that I had the ability to do it, but you start to doubt yourself when you haven't been to Victory Lane for a long time and all anybody wants to talk about is how long it's been since you were in Victory Lane. It was nice to get that monkey off your back and to start focusing on another race win."
THE PAST TWO CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES CHAMPIONS HAVE OVERCOME TRIPLE-DIGIT POINT DEFICITS. WITH THE RECENT STRING OF BAD LUCK BY THE POINTS LEADERS, HOW DOES THAT AFFECT YOUR OUTLOOK ON THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "We were sitting in the garage area after Darlington and our heads couldn't have been hung any lower. Having the penalty served to us at Daytona and basically getting last-place points, and then having a truck that could win at Darlington only to come away with a blown motor and a 30-something finish, we basically had two last-place finishes in a row. That wasn't how we imagined the start of our season. At that point in time we decided to change our outlook and said, 'Let the points fall wherever they fall, we're just going to try to win as many races as we can and do whatever we can.' We weren't giving up, but we knew that we had an uphill battle ahead of us. Coming out of Martinsville, we rebounded in points and led a bunch of laps there and got a top-five finish. And to come out of Gateway collecting the maximum number of points, including bonus points, all of a sudden your mindset starts changing again. Yeah, we're going to keeping focusing on winning races, but at least there's a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel that we know we still have a shot at the championship. Everybody is going to have their days when they're not going to run quite right or quite good, and hopefully we're in situation right now where we got all of that behind us and we can focus on winning the championship."
HOW MUCH MORE DIFFICULT IS IT TO OVERCOME A TRIPLE-DIGIT POINTS DEFICIT THIS YEAR WITH ONLY 22 RACES ON THE SCHEDULE? "It gives you that many less races to try to rebound from any problems. And that's the thing with the truck series, you don't typically see the champion have many DNFs because there are so few races to get the job done that one or two DNFs hurts you terribly in the points standings. We've seen that already this year. Hopefully when the schedule comes out next year, we'll be back up to 24 or 26 races and that will make me happy."
HAS THE TRUCK SERIES OUTGROWN SOME OF ITS ROOTS, WHERE IT DOESN'T NEED TO BE USED AS A TOOL TO BREAK INTO NEW MARKETS, SUCH AS THE NORTHWEST AND THE MIDWEST? "I definitely think so. The days of us going to the Louisville short track, Evergreen and stuff like that is in the rearview mirror. I enjoy going to those tracks and it did help build our fan base and it did help to build NASCAR's fan base in general, going to markets that NASCAR had never even been to before. I think that was good for the series to get it off of the ground and going, and the Craftsman Truck Series has built its own fan identity. There are a lot of people that like the truck series more than the cars, and we've got a lot of Craftsman Truck Series fans out there. Any time you can feed off the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, though, it's just going to build up your series that much more. That's one of the things that the Busch Grand National Series has been able to do over the last five to 10 years - they've been able to feed off of the Winston Cup Series and that's what has propelled and grown them as quickly to what they are today. Any time the Craftsman Truck Series can be paired up with them, whether it's Martinsville, Daytona or Richmond, I think it's very positive for us."
IS THE DELETION OF THE SMALLER TRACKS AND MORE COMPANION RACES WITH WINSTON CUP AND BUSCH A TRADE-OFF FOR A SMALLER SCHEDULE? "Yes and no. I think we do need to get away from the little, small tracks and we need to be at the bigger venues. We're taking a series that takes $3 million a year to operate a team, with very expensive equipment, and we were taking it to facility that didn't really accommodate our type of racing. That's not to downplay those tracks, they play an important part in regional racing, but we are a national touring series and that's the evolution of the series. When we first went to Evergreen Speedway, you could probably count the tractor-trailer rigs that were pulling the equipment in on one hand. Now, you can count the rigs that are not tractor-trailer rigs on one hand. It's the evolution of the series, and we don't need to be at the tracks that won't accommodate our form of racing, and that means the equipment, the teams and the race tracks themselves to accommodate the expensive race vehicles that we race with. I think that we should be looking at is paring up with more Winston Cup events. We should be at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and we could do companion races with the Busch Grand National Series at places like Pikes Peak and Kentucky Speedway. Even though we've kinda gotten away from the Evergreens and the Portlands and those tracks, there are a lot of venues out there that we could be going to that we're not. That can be frustrating as well."
LOOKING AT SOME OF THE LONG-STANDING TEAMS, ROUSH RACING IS DOWN TO ONE TRUCK AND BOTH HENDRICK AND CHILDRESS HAVE LEFT THE SERIES TO MOVE THEIR EFFORTS INTO THE BUSCH SERIES. IS THE BUSCH SERIES BECOMING THE DEVELOPMENTAL SERIES THAT THE TRUCK SERIES ONCE WAS? "No. You can say that you have this guy gone and that guy gone, but you have Bobby Hamilton with a three-truck team with a guy like Robert Pressley. You have Ultra Motorsports that used to be a one-truck team that is now a two-truck team with Ted Musgrave. You have Kevin Harvick and Ken Schrader running truck races, and Mike Bliss, who has bounced around back into the truck series with a solid team. The truck series has by no means suffered. A lot of people want to say it has suffered and that the competition is not there. I think the competition is as tough as it has ever been. Just because we don't have a Jack Sprague or a Ron Hornaday there doesn't mean that the truck series is done. Those teams that fade away always seem to get replaced by more good teams. The sport is very healthy and we've got some great competitors there and we're showing that every week by turning teams away each and every race. We're sending anywhere from four to six trucks home each week and the Winston Cup Series and Busch Grand National are begging for cars to show up. They're calling people up to fill their fields and the Craftsman Truck Series is turning people away. Granted, we don't start as many, but any time you can turn people away is a sign of healthy growth. It's also a bad thing because you don't want to put teams out of business by sending them home every week, but yet it shows that the depth of the series is there."